Following backlash, Oahu eateries hesitant to ask customers for vaccination status

Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 7:20 AM HST|Updated: Jul. 19, 2021 at 10:30 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As part of Tier 5, Oahu restaurants and bars can now do away with social distancing if they ask their patrons for vaccination proof or a recent negative COVID test.

But the Hawaii Restaurant Association can’t name a single eatery participating in the program.

The reason? Sheryl Matsuoka, the executive director of HRA, said that restaurants who did initially participate earlier in the month received backlash.

“In the beginning, we were so excited,” she said. “It gave restaurants an option.”

Matsuoka said she expected smaller restaurants to participate in the change.

“But as time went by, we found guests didn’t want to show their card or weren’t vaccinated,” she said. “Visitors were upset because guests came from states with less restrictions.”

Matsuoka said they’re pushing for a 3-foot distancing rule since schools will be filling that restriction.

“It’s challenging with 6 feet,” she said. “Restaurants lost 2020, they still need to make up for a lot.”

Matsuoka said restaurants are very concerned about the numbers, both from first a health standpoint and a business standpoint.

Sarah Nguyen, owner of The Pizza Press in Pearl City, said she asked her employees about the program and decided against it.

“I let them know that I didn’t feel comfortable doing that,” Nguyen said.

“I wanted to respect each person’s privacy. It would be hard to manage and I didn’t want to put my staff in a position where a situation would arise.”

Giovanni Pastrami is located in the heart of Waikiki, and even though the business struggles with the influx of visitors, its owner doesn’t consider the program a viable option.

“Mainly due to the labor shortage and the added compliance and training that would be required for that process, we didn’t want to put our employees in that position,” said Ryan Tanaka, the owner and president of Island Business Management.

“We would be managing angry and confused customers who don’t agree with that process.”

Don Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Bar and Grill, said he noticed nearby restaurants asked patrons for vaccination cards but received backlash.

“They got eaten alive on social media,” Murphy said. “I don’t want to put my staff through that.”

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